We can’t quite believe how fast this year has gone! And with the festive season upon us, it’s definitely time to start thinking about Christmas shopping! When looking for gifts, it’s very easy to go online or pop into big stores to find what you are looking for, but have you ever stopped to consider the impact this may be having on smaller, local businesses?

At Bright Young Things, we are passionate about shopping local and passing this love for supporting small businesses onto our littl’uns! This Christmas, why not teach them about the importance of buying from local businesses. Explain that their new book or game is made by a local person in Northern Ireland – you could even go and visit them! This will make for a much more thought-provoking and worthwhile present rather than more plastic from a toy shop! 

We want to encourage more people shop local this Christmas, so we have listed a few of the shops we love! 

Learning SpaceCollege Street, Belfast & Online

First up, we have Learning Space, located in Belfast City Centre. This local store specialises in educational toys and products that captivate, inspire and educate your littl’uns! Learning Space was created when the owners’ were unable to find products for their younger sister, who has Soto’s Syndrome. Their aim is to give all children a chance to reach their full potential and also offer an extensive range of toys and aids to help with Autism, Down Syndrome and Dyslexia. The store also runs free activities every Wednesday and Saturday, giving children and parents a chance to explore the wide range of toys and other resources they have to offer. A definite stop off during those Christmas shopping trips. 

OutsideIn Belfast Christmas Market & Online

Outside In is a streetwear company who’s vision is to rewrite homelessness by empowering society to be part in a unique giving process called ‘Wear One, Share One’. With every purchase, the customer will receive an additional free item to give to someone who is homeless in their city. The company offer 5 different giving products including blankets, beanies, gloves, socks and washbags. Since opening in 2016, they have been able to give to over 30,000 people affected by homelessness. 

Little Heart Belfast – Queen’s Arcade, Belfast & Online

Established in December 2002, Little Heart is a treasure trove of amazing personalised prints and cards, as well as lots of other quirky nic-nacks. The Belfast-based business paint and make their own cards and have a fantastic range of Christmas cards – perfect for those wanting to send unique cards to their loved ones this year!

Studio Souk Ann Street, Belfast & Online

Studio Souk provides local creative entrepreneurs with an amazing opportunity to sell their products and build their brand within the heart of Belfast City Centre. With products from over 85 local artists available, it also provides the opportunity for the business owners to be inspired by one another as well as educating Belfast about the creative talent in our very own city! From food and prints to fashion and homeware, there really is something for everyone in the family! Plus, take a look at their exclusive Christmas collection which includes Northern Irish Christmas Craic’ers and 12 Days of Christmas Advent Calendar!  

 Madlug – Online 

If someone you know needs a bag this Christmas, look no further! Designed in Belfast, Madlug offer a wide range of bags from backpacks to luggage. But the best part is that with every bag you purchase, one will be given to a child in care. The company was founded in 2015 in order to support children in care, who often transport all their belongings in bin bags. The cost of every bag in the shop covers the item you choose, as well as a free bag for a child in care. The bag is unbranded to avoid stigma and folds away neatly to save space. Plus, every bag has a label that says ‘You are incredible’ so as to remind every child that they have value, worth and dignity – what a fantastic cause! 

Lottie Doll – Online

Last but certainly not least, we have Lottie Dolls. Born in Donegal, this collection of dolls is ground-breaking and could have such an incredible impact on your bright young things! Recognising how precious childhood is, and how short it can be, Lottie Dolls were created based on the average proportions of a nine-year-old child, rather than those of an adult woman. The dolls celebrate childhood and promote the empowerment of children by encouraging them to be themselves, to play imaginatively and adventurously and most importantly, have fun! Take a look at this video to find out the story of Lottie. 

Must Reads – AvailableOnline

Another great read is ‘Raff is Lost’, whereby Jenny Scullion and illustrator Helen Turner tell the story of Oliver’s attempts to retrieve his lost toy, Raff. The bedtime story is a relatable one for parents and is an exciting tale of mischief and adventure for young Oliver. 

As well as supporting local stores and artists, we also have two great local authors who are writing books that are equally fun and supportive. Samantha Porciello’s, ‘Dream a Little Dream’ centres on Luna, who is a little girl stuck in a bad dream. The story helps children who are struggling with feelings of anxiety and includes activities based on stress coping mechanisms. 

Share Your Ideas!

This really is just a taste of the fabulous local businesses in Northern Ireland but we hope it will encourage you to pay your local shops a visit this festive season! Head over to Visit Belfast for more fantastic shop local ideas!  Make sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram as we will be sharing more amazing shops, days out and events taking place over the Christmas holidays! 

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